(Guyana Guardian) – 18 people, including a Guyanese and a Brazilian gold miner, were shot dead by Venezuelan soldiers during an extended mining camp raid on Saturday morning, in the border state of Bolivar which separates Guyana from Venezuela.

An unidentified young woman was also killed in the process.

Venezuelan authorities had said that the men were mining in the area illegally, but could not say why they were killed.

The area where the incident occurred generally attracts hundreds of gold miners from Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela, and is often a flashpoint for violent clashes between the authorities and miners.

While the exact nationalities of all of the men that were killed remain unclear, eyewitnesses claimed that a Brazilian miner known as “Silva” and a Guyanese man whose only name was given as “Buck” was also among the dead.

Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro is on record saying that the area (where the incident occurred) is a strategic priority for his country, while declaring war on anyone that may be mining there.

An opposition lawmaker, Américo De Grazia‏, in confirming the incident said that relatives have told him that the victims were all shot in the head.

He described the incident as a massacre.

When the Guyana Guardian contacted the State Governor’s office yesterday morning (Monday) regarding the incident, a woman who answered promised that the Governor would return a call within the hour. But despite several follow-up messages, no call was returned, neither was there any acknowledgment of the emails sent.